The Hawaiʻi Agricultural Mediation Program (HIAMP) today announced that farmers in the state of Hawaiʻi can now access free mediation services for a broader range of agricultural issues. Since 2012, HIAMP has helped farmers resolve disputes confidentially and for free. Now, with support from the USDA and the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture, HIAMP is expanding its services to include mediation for issues related to assessments, contracts, cooperatives, farm management, labeling, labor, and water.
“Farmers in these situations may find it difficult to resolve these issues by themselves. Whether it’s a situation involving water, an employee’s housing or pay, or a dispute with a governing agency about the language used on their products, both sides often try everything to fix the problem on their own but aren’t able to make the progress hoped for,” HIAMP mediator Steve Bess said. “It’s amazing how effective mediation can be in helping to find mutually acceptable solutions.”
Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process where an impartial person (mediator) helps parties explore their options and negotiate agreements. Recent HIAMP data show success rates of over 80 percent when mediation is tried before resorting to arbitration, litigation, or some other dispute resolution method.
Napela Payne Barthel, of a 300-acre farm on Hawaiian Home Land in Pu’ukapu, Waimea, says HIAMP has helped reduce stress and improve their farm operations.
“People have different visions, and a disagreement can disrupt the flow of an operation. The mediation process led by HIAMP brought grounded clarity, resulting in an invaluable sense of peace and the ability to return our focus to the enjoyment of providing food for our island community,” Payne Barthel said.
Agricultural mediation programs like HIAMP exist in 43 states across the U.S., and are certified and funded by grants from the USDA. The program was created to help farmers, lenders, creditors, and the USDA resolve issues informally and without the transaction costs associated with the legal system.
HIAMP offers on-site mediation sessions and teleconferencing sessions so that everyone has access to this service no matter where they live. Bess says issues are typically resolved or improved dramatically within one to three meetings.
The complete list of agricultural issues eligible for free mediation now includes assessments, contracts, debt issues, disputes involving cooperatives, crop insurance, credit counseling, farm loans, family farm transitions, farm management, farmer-neighbor disputes, labor issues, labeling, land and equipment leases, organic certification, pesticide issues, USDA farm and conservation programs, USDA rural development loans, water disputes, and wetlands determinations.
About the Hawaiʻi Agricultural Mediation Program:
The Hawaii Agricultural Mediation Program (HIAMP) is the official United States Department of Agriculture-certified agricultural mediation program for Hawaii. HIAMP is a program of the Environmental Mediation Center (EMC), a non-profit organization that designs and administers environmental and agricultural dispute resolution programs.